RAYMOND FRIEL, chief executive officer of Caritas Social Action Network, introduces the resources produced to help us mark the fifth World Day of the Poor, on Sunday November 14 2021…
World Day of the Poor was initiated by Pope Francis in 2017 with the theme of “Let us love, not with words but with deeds”.
Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus in loving God and neighbour, especially the most vulnerable.
Pope Francis reminds us that, “If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor.”
Developing a culture of encounter is a key theme for Pope Francis and an essential counter-witness to what he describes as a culture of waste and indifference, which casts aside human beings who are not considered to be productive or useful.
This year’s theme is, “For the poor you have always with you” from the words of Jesus at the Anointing in Bethany just before his Passion. The incident is described in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John.
Jesus is not saying we should not work to alleviate poverty. In Mark’s account, Jesus says that we can show kindness to the poor whenever we wish.
In John’s account, the main objection to the use of costly perfume to anoint Jesus comes from Judas, but John makes clear that Judas had no love for the poor and was a thief. He stole from the common purse. His words said one thing, his actions another.
The Christian tradition is realistic about human beings. We are good, but flawed, wounded by sin. We do not believe in utopia in this life. There will always be poverty and injustice of some kind, but we are called to reduce its impact wherever we can.
The Pope says the encounter with the poor is more than just charity, or acts of benevolence, important as they are. It should be a genuine sharing, an establishment of community, a desire to get to know those who may have been invisible to us.
It is not enough to work for the relief of poverty. In Fratelli Tutti, we are called upon to challenge the structural causes of poverty.
In our society there is widespread injustice. Many people do not have what they need to live a dignified and fulfilled life, while others have far more than they need. This is not a natural state of affairs, but the result of policy, which means it can be changed.
Poverty comes in many guises. We do not always see the desperate material poverty that is evident in other countries, but it is there.
In 2019, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2.4m people in the UK, including 500,000 children, experienced destitution at some point in the year – in other words, they did not have enough to live on.
We also have people who experience the poverty of isolation and loneliness, homelessness, modern-day slavery, trafficking, relational poverty, the experience of being abused or the victim of violence.
These circumstances are often drivers of material poverty or the result of material poverty.
The Gospel calls us to a conversion of heart and this conversion, as Pope Francis says in this year’s message for the World Day of the Poor, “Consists primarily in opening our hearts to recognising the many different forms of poverty and manifesting the Kingdom of God through a lifestyle consistent with the faith we profess.”
The resources we have gathered in collaboration with Redemptorist Publications are offered as a way of deepening our encounter with those who are poor, of examining our conscience about our lifestyles and how our faith is expressed in loving action.
In his message in 2017, the Pope asked Catholic communities in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor to engage in acts of encounter and concrete expressions of charity. The focus is not fundraising, but encounter, accompaniment and change.
The See-Judge-Act exercise is designed primarily for group use in a parish or a school to discern what actions might be taken. Do we know our community, who do we “see” there, who do we not see, what is the Holy Spirit prompting us to do?
The novena is offered to help us to prayerfully encounter in scripture God’s constant care for the poor and desire for more just relations in the community.
Our society has been shaken by a pandemic. The poverty in our communities has been exposed and the hardest hit are those who were already in poverty. Other types of poverty are on the increase, such as mental ill-health, domestic violence and food poverty.
For 2,000 years ago, the Christian community has been known for its service to the poor. This is needed now more than ever. The world is looking for hope.CSAN-World-Day-of-the-Poor-Resource-2021